MANILA, Philippines — The family of two Filipino Muslim women filmmakers allegedly kidnapped by Islamic extremists in the country’s south have made a heartfelt video plea on YouTube for their release.
Nadjoua Bansil, 39, and younger sister Linda, 36, were abducted on the strife-torn island of Jolo on June 22 while working on a movie about its impoverished residents, officials and their friends said.
“We implore your help, as fellow Muslims, to release them. They are not your enemies,” the victims’ brother Mohammed Bansil said in the YouTube clip, which was uploaded on Friday.
“Have pity on our sisters. They are women. You must have taken them to the mountains and we are worried that they may be going hungry and unable to observe proper hygiene,” he added, as pictures of the two women were shown.
Mohammed told AFP on Sunday that they uploaded the three-minute video in the hope of establishing contact with the kidnappers.
“We are at the stage of initiating negotiations,” he said.
“It’s very difficult. There are a lot of people that we have to go through. They (the kidnappers) have not initiated any contact with us.”
He said the family did not know which group was holding the sisters, though military and police authorities in Jolo have blamed Abu Sayyaf.
The extremist group was founded with seed money from Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. The US government has officially designated it a terrorist organization.
The YouTube video, in which Mohammed speaks calmly alongside his brother Zackaria, identifies the victims as children of a deceased Muslim sharia court judge, and ends with the two brothers reciting a prayer.
Zackaria said he hoped the kidnappers would free his sisters before Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which starts in early July.
The appeal was addressed to the kidnappers, as well as to other guerrilla groups in the area, local Muslim officials and politicians, and President Benigno Aquino.
Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history as well as many kidnappings of foreigners and Filipinos, often demanding hefty ransoms.
Other Abu Sayyaf factions are believed to be holding hostages, including two European bird watchers.
Mohammed Bansil said the family has asked the authorities to be circumspect about releasing information to the public that might lead the sisters to be harmed.